Thursday, 19 November 2020 12:00

HUMANKIND - an interview with translator Erica Moore (part 1)

Written by Claire Koers and Erica Moore

humankind bregman

I wonder if, like me, you were on the waiting list to read De Meeste Mensen Deugen by Rutger Bregman last summer. I found myself surrounded by family members utterly absorbed in this book, a bestseller which suggests that human nature is kinder and more generous than we think. My name was way down on the waiting list for the book, but then someone suggested I read the English version. And that’s what I did.

Curious, as I always am, to see who the translators were, I was delighted to discover that one of them, Erica Moore, has been a member of SENSE since 2015. I decided to contact Erica to find out more about this challenging assignment. She was delighted to answer my questions, pointing out that authors are often inundated with calls for interviews and articles. Translators and editors? Not so much!

Erica, where are you from and what is your background?

I’m from Austin, Texas and came to Amsterdam for a year after uni on a Fulbright grant. I then stayed on for another year at the UvA, where I did Science and Technology Studies. At UT Austin, I majored in Plan II, an honours liberal arts program with classes in everything from English Lit. to Environmental History to Modern Physics. So I got a degree in a little bit of everything. Turns out that’s also the perfect foundation for being a translator. You’re keenly aware of how little you know, but you have a basis in a wide range of subjects, and solid training in critical thinking and writing. So you can dive deeper into any topic.

How did you meet Rutger Bregman and Elizabeth Manton?

I met Rutger when I joined De Correspondent back in 2015. And I sat across from him for the next few years at the old newsroom on the Amstel. I was hired to help them get set up to go international. I put together a team to translate pieces by the Dutch correspondents, edited the work of US writers like Sarah Kendzior and Bill McKibben (US environmental activist and founder of grassroots movement, and started an English newsletter to go out once a week and generate interest in the stories and the writers and the DC brand of journalism. I wore a number of hats at the startup, but my mission as head of translations was to ensure the voices of the different correspondents, and of the organization itself, would resonate with English speakers.

I met Elizabeth that same year, when I was scouting translators for an English edition of Rutger’s 2014 book Gratis geld voor iedereen. I handpicked a group of ten or so American translators – many of whom I found through SENSE – and asked them to take a crack at the first page or two. All ten samples were great, but one translator stood out because she showed a real feel for Rutger’s style from the get-go.

So Rutger, Elizabeth and I all met in a vast and empty pub in Utrecht, the city they both called home, and we got started. That was the beginning of Utopia for Realists. We’ve been a team ever since.

Could you tell us something about the translation process itself?

After Elizabeth has completed her draft [translation] of a chapter, she’ll share it in a Google doc. It’s the best system we’ve found for collaborating on a text. Then I’ll go through and mark my edits and ask for changes, and Rutger and Elizabeth can respond whenever they get the chance. I ask them to leave all mark-up intact, so I can go through again and finalize everything, taking everyone’s input into account.

Sometimes we openly ponder what the best solution would be, with comments back and forth. Mostly, I’ll make a call or rewrite a line and that’s that. Sometimes, I’ll leave an issue open until the arc of the book becomes clearer to me, then I’ll go back and decide on that metaphor in chapter one, because it never comes up again. Or because it repeats in the epilogue. Rutger helps point out those sorts of links, too, since he knows the Dutch text through and through. I generally don’t read far ahead in the Dutch but look first to the English translation and how it works or where it lets us down, and try to fix that. I’ll pick up the Dutch book when I see a problem.


At the start of a project, I write up a style guide – ostensibly for the translator and the editors and the copy editor, but mostly for myself. It’s my way of trying to get at the nuts and bolts of the author’s writing style. We can all add to it as we go. One of the things I put in there, for instance, was to keep in mind that Rutger is a skilled storyteller, with a great sense of timing and rhythm. It’s key we preserve that wherever we can.

Another point was to stay personable and breezy, close to natural spoken English. I’d edit a sentence like ‘It makes no difference whom you ask.’ to ‘Doesn’t matter who you ask.’ Or introductory clauses with commas, like ‘Consequently,…’ or ‘As a result,…’ get replaced by ‘And so…’. I found I could get rid of whole mouthfuls of clauses with that one: ‘The consequence of this inaction was that…’ becomes ‘And so…’. I also edited out more didactic phrases like ‘Let’s now imagine that…,’ replacing them with the friend-talking-to-friend version: ‘What if…’. These may seem like little tweaks, but the effect over 400 pages – if we got it right – is a text that sounds personal and draws you in close, like Rutger’s sharing a story with you, instead of aloof scene-setting and armchair observations.

For my fellow language nerds out there, here’s a couple more points from the guide:

Key: Avoid the subjunctive where possible. This book’s a grounded argument for what’s actually possible, not a string of lofty hypotheticals, e.g. ‘What if real democracy’s possible?’ not ‘What if democracy were truly possible?’ Rutger wants to take us beyond what we know and put us inside new, very real possibilities. That’s different from somehow transcending our current situation and gazing back down from a distance.

Key: Where possible, keep the personal perspective intact. Keep the people in the sentences, e.g. ‘Thanks to DNA testing, we now know…’ not ‘Recent DNA research has revealed…’. The edit sounds upbeat, accessible and includes the reader. We hear the person behind the writing. The old version sounds more distanced, stuffier, academic. (Nothing wrong with that, just not what we’re going for.) Writer and reader are absent.

Once everyone working on a manuscript is aware of that kind of thing, then odds are you won’t kill it. Take the subjunctive for instance, a deliberate choice on my part for Rutger. If you don’t make explicit your decision to avoid it, an earnest editor could correct out the author's style. Don’t get me wrong. That was not a problem here. Lots of fantastic people behind this book!

Having worked with Elizabeth on three book-length projects, and several shorter ones, I know that I don’t have to check her in a traditional sense. If she’s put a quote in, I know that she’s checked and double-checked it, and if there’s an original English version, that’s what she’s used. Because Elizabeth has done the heavy lifting, I can then focus on style and storytelling and argument. It’s a dream job – especially working with a fantastic author and a fabulous translator.

Thursday, 12 November 2020 12:00

Starters SIG: tips and strategies to find clients

Written by Rossella Squillace

two business people sitting at a desk and giving a high five

Whether you’re a recent translation graduate ready to kick off your freelance career, or a translator with pluriannual experience going down a new career path; finding (new) clients is always a hot topic.

That’s what Starters SIG meetings are for: to discuss tricky questions and give answers. How? By sharing your personal experiences and knowledge in fun and informal virtual gatherings where members’ friends (and glasses of wine) are more than welcome!

This second SIG e-meeting took place on 1 October and it was a great source of inspiration. After splitting our group of 14 attendees into smaller ones, we openly talked about how we found our first translation clients. Needless to say, the most common answer was ‘networking, networking and more networking’. Word of mouth still seems to be a powerful, safe means of getting new clients. The renowned phrase ‘I know someone I would recommend’ is always a safe bet.

Other ways of acquiring clients?
Some found clients by attending multiple conferences by professional associations.

Danielle got her start writing blog posts for a tour company she worked for while also teaching at a museum. Anne used LinkedIn and Facebook groups to build a relevant professional network. Martina worked as a project manager first and then decided to switch to the other side. She found her first clients by contacting a lot of translation agencies.

You can indeed send hundreds of emails per day to the many translation agencies you have collected in Excel, but remember to personalize the content in order to stand out from the crowd. That’s what it’s all about, after all.

And you? How did you find your first clients and what’s your strategy to get new ones?

Thursday, 05 November 2020 12:00

Review: Stretch & Tone workshop series a roaring success

Written by Lizzie Keane

hannah grace via unsplash

This wonderful six-week workshop series didn’t only get us writing about all sorts of things in styles we didn’t know we were capable of; it also makes us greedy for more. ‘Just write’, says facilitator Matthew Curlewis, and you do. The emphasis was definitely on actually writing, rather than merely talking about writing. There was a clear structure to the sessions and a clear line across the six weeks. All of this contributed towards creating a pleasant sense of being in good hands which, in turn, encouraged people to possibly step further outside of their comfort zone than they would have expected.

When friends asked me what the workshop entailed, I said, ‘Well, we write. We just write. And sometimes we read our writing aloud to the rest of the group and sometimes we listen.’ And you could see them thinking, ‘But how?’. After a brief introduction, Matthew got everyone to jump in at the deep end by giving us a choice of three situations to write about. We got roughly 15 minutes to write and then it was time to share. My two favourite themes were: ‘Think about a photo and start your writing with the phrase “In this one, you are …”’ and ‘Taking inspiration from a poem by George Ella Lyon, write a piece using the opening phrase “I am from…”’.

The pace was quite fast, with everyone writing at least three pieces in a session. During the reading aloud of the written pieces, I found myself moved, thrilled, saddened and intrigued, as well as laughing out loud.

Having attended the workshop, I’m seriously considering doing something with the collection of short stories I’ve been slowly building, and I know of at least four other participants who have real plans to finish and publish books they are writing. All of which should tell you how good this workshop series was.

Friday, 30 October 2020 12:00

SIGs in the spotlight: TechSIG

Written by Ashley Cowles

alexandre debieve unsplash

In this blog series, we are highlighting the different Special Interest Groups (SIGs) SENSE has to offer. SIG meetings are open to all members, and guests are welcome to attend one or two meetings before deciding whether they would like to join SENSE. For upcoming SIG meetings, check the SENSE Events calendar. Contact the SIG convener for more information or to suggest a meeting topic. If you would like to start a new SIG, contact our SIG and Social Events Coordinator. In this edition, we talk to TechSIG co-conveners Jenny Zonneveld and Hans van Bemmelen.

What is TechSIG and who is it for?
JZ: TechSIG is for all members, wherever they are. We wanted a place to discuss aspects of our work as language professionals that’s not actually language related. The idea is to help members use the tools of our trade more effectively.

There are a wide range of issues we discuss: from backups and security to the software we all use. And as language professionals are not the most tech-savvy, any help we can give is more than welcome.

Our first meeting in April was about editing and translating PowerPoint files. 

How did TechSIG get started?
HvB: Jenny came up with the idea, after she noticed that the Zuid-Holland SIG often discussed technical issues, which might be of wider relevance.

How often does TechSIG meet up?
JZ: A few times a year. We don’t meet as often as we’d like – there are loads of technical issues we could discuss.

How many people generally attend TechSIG meetings?

JZ: We chose to hold short lunchtime meetings to make the SIG as accessible as possible to all. There were about 25 at the first meeting, but it really is too early to tell as we've only had a few meetings so far.

When and where will the next TechSIG meeting be?
HvB: The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 4 November at 12:00. Our guest speaker Steven Segaert will be helping us better understand our GDPR obligations.

If you’d like to attend the next TechSIG meeting, be sure to claim your spot via the Events page!

Thursday, 22 October 2020 12:00

A popular scientific writing course moves online

Written by Claire Bacon and Sally Hill

AMC logo xl

Last month, students at Amsterdam University's Academic Medical Center (AMC) voted the scientific writing course taught by SENSE members Ed Hull and Sally Hill to be one of the top three courses given by the AMC graduate school. Knowing how keen we all are to hear about the successes of our fellow SENSE members and knowing that many of us in SENSE regularly edit scientific papers, we caught up with Ed to find out more about his course. Maybe we could learn a thing or two about how to help our own clients!

Congratulations on being shortlisted for an award at AMC, Ed! Your course is clearly very successful; have you always been interested in teaching scientific writing?
Not always. My background is in biomedical engineering, and while working as an engineer at the Department of Experimental Surgery at the University of Groningen's teaching hospital back in 1974, I started correcting the English in my colleagues’ manuscripts. I soon discovered that, although the English was fine, the content was not logically organized and the writing was pompous and full of complex jargon, which made the research difficult to understand. I realized that the main problem was that this archaic yet orthodox style of writing had become standard.

This lack of clear and effective communication is particularly problematic in the health-related fields. Over the years, the ethical issues in scientific writing and publication became more evident to me, and I started developing a strategy to help to solve these problems. The result was a book that described how to write clear, readable scientific articles. In 2003, I was asked to teach scientific writing at AMC, and my book became the course material. The course and the book have been constantly evolving over the years and have been highly rated by the students.

How are your courses structured?
The course consists of lectures and workshop sessions. The students write their own text and get feedback from editor colleagues of mine: Charles Frink and Pauline Marx. This feedback is highly appreciated by all of the students. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever received feedback on their own writing. Hearing success stories from my students is always a kick. At the end of one of my courses in South Africa, the students started dancing. They said, ‘we have become a family.’ They loved working together and brainstorming on their texts.

How will you develop the course in the future?
Despite these excellent evaluations, the course will no longer be on offer to PhD students from January 2021 because the AMC and Vrije Universiteit (VUmc) graduate schools are merging. Sally and I want to continue teaching and are now working toward getting my course online. We want these to be up and running by early next year. We will be offering three levels of courses in scientific writing: for beginning researchers, for researchers writing for publication, and for researchers writing the Introduction and Discussion sections of their theses. I want to continue helping scientists write research papers because I believe they face big problems in this area.

In your experience, what common problems do research scientists face?
‘Publish or perish!’ This conflict of interest plagues all researchers and creates ethical problems because getting published becomes the priority. A common comment I hear from researchers is, ‘I have to make my little study sound big and important. Otherwise, it will not get published.’ This is a deliberate attempt to mislead readers. Although my students agree with my strategy to write a rigorous, credible, and transparent manuscript, their supervisors or the heads of their departments do not agree and put them under pressure to overemphasize the importance of their findings to increase their chances of getting published in a high-impact journal. When I ask, ‘why do your supervisors disagree with writing a credible paper?’ the answer is ‘well that’s just not the way we do it.’

How can language professionals help scientists to overcome these problems?
I think that authors’ editors are in a perfect position to reduce this ethical problem. But correcting the English language is not enough. We also need to ensure that the manuscript is transparent. That means making sure that the manuscript focuses on a specific scope and presents results that can be credibly generalized to a specific study population. Of course, the big challenge here will be to convince our clients that publishing a credible paper is more important than ‘publish or perish’. I am hoping to work with Sally to develop a course that is specially tailored to editors working with scientists. Watch this space!

Keep an eye on Ed’s website for up-to-date information on his upcoming online courses.

Friday, 16 October 2020 15:14

Co-working: does it make SENSE?

Written by Lloyd Bingham

Canva Person Writing on the Notebook 1

Co-working: does it make SENSE?
Have you heard of co-working? Did you know the concept has been around for 15 years? The thought of co-working may either excite or terrify you: excite you because of the prospect of getting out of the office once in a while and meeting your colleagues or other professionals to collaborate, om mee te denken. Or terrify you because you possibly became a freelancer to avoid interacting with anybody face to face.

What is co-working?
Co-working is essentially about doing what you already do, but with others, in person. On 11 October in Amersfoort, SENSE member Lloyd Bingham will outline the mental health benefits of having some company and a change of scenery. He will argue that co-working can increase your productivity, while offering a space to share knowledge and ideas with your contemporaries, which could ultimately produce a better result for your clients.

Co-working with fellow linguists or other professionals?
Lloyd will explain the differences between working with fellow language professionals and working with professionals in other sectors. Both models offer their own benefits, and one might be a better fit for you than the other.

Co-working or coworking?
Perhaps the most important question is: with or without a hyphen? Supporters of no-hyphen include the esteemed Garner’s Modern English Usage. Supporters of retaining the hyphen include many of our esteemed SENSE colleagues. We know who we’d rather trust.

Sense co-working sessions are open to SENSE members only. Not a SENSE member yet? For a €80 you can benefit from SENSE membership until December 2021! For information on the benefits of SENSE membership, click here.

Thursday, 15 October 2020 12:00

Recap: the thinking behind the words

Written by Cathy Scott

VW I.D. Buzz

Copywriting is perhaps easier to do than it is to explain. But during his workshop on 17 September, creative director and copywriter Chris Baylis took on the challenge anyway.

Introducing his presentation with the statement that ‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture’, Chris highlighted the difficulty of defining something as intuitively creative as copywriting. He also stressed that unlike editing and translation (which largely focus on applying traditional textual structures and rules), this commercial art form is about far more than dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s. In fact, rather than conforming to established expectations, conceptual copywriting should create an element of surprise by making unexpected, original connections that reward the reader or viewer with a new way of seeing or understanding something.

To show us how this works in practice, Chris (who has international creative awards coming out of his ears) reviewed some of his favourite work. In ‘Wake Up the Town’, he took the new Philips wake-up light to Longyearbyen, the northernmost settlement on earth, for the residents to try out. His thinking: if it worked for people there, it would work for anyone, anywhere. This kind of inspiration also requires perspiration: it was backed up by a hard-working, interactive campaign. Other bold ideas (such as the Adidas ‘There will be haters’ ad) demonstrated how to tackle a problem from a different angle, rewarding the consumer with an emotional boost, a smile or a wink of recognition.

Chris then took us on a quick tour of the different types of copywriting, from outstanding TV commercials to humble point-of-sale wobblers. He outlined the marketing process that extends from the development of the actual product or service all the way to the creation of the copy, art or design used to sell it. He discussed the value of creating tension, and of allowing our subconscious mind to go off for a wander until it suddenly comes back with the goods. He also stressed the need to keep refilling our personal creative bank with experiences, visuals and popular culture: valuable stuff you can draw on later, just as successful brands do. Other aspects he mentioned were the nature, commercial value and social impact of copywriting, and the rise of ‘purpose’ as a brand value.

Then it was our turn to get creative. Our mission was to come up with a headline and strapline for the new, all-electric, all-singing-and-dancing Volkswagen I.D. Buzz. This is a vehicle that manages to combine the nostalgic charm of the original camper van with the luxurious design of a zero-emissions 8-seater ride (one so futuristic that you don’t even need to drive it yourself). Briefs like this are guaranteed to get me squealing with delight, so I muted my mic and started darkening an A4 with one masterpiece after another. Then we came back together to reveal the fruits of our labours, under Chris’s gentle and respectful encouragement. Much as I loved my own ‘Conceived yesterday. Reborn tomorrow.’, I had to concede defeat to a strapline that I still can’t get out of my mind: ‘Good, clean fun’. Damn – now why didn’t I think of that?

This exercise showed how difficult it is to convey the essence of a product in just a few words. And although there’s no easy answer to the question, ‘How do you come up with an idea?’, Chris did offer some useful tips and reading suggestions, all of which illustrate the eternal truth: ‘Good copy doesn’t sell; it makes you want to buy.’

Want to boost your own copywriting skills? Check out the following resources:

Thursday, 08 October 2020 12:00

SENSE Virtual Quiz Night - from a newbie perspective

Written by Natalie Bowler

 SENSE quiz night 2020

Gin o’clock came early on 25 September. I may have been a little nervous about participating in the SENSE Virtual Quiz night – my first ever event at SENSE ¬– but with a G&T in hand and faced with a very friendly gaggle of language professionals, it was all good.

I soon found myself in a break-out room/team with Mike Gould and Curtis Barrett, feeling utterly useless for the first round: ‘SENSE History’. Fortunately, Mike and Curtis saved the day. The second round, ‘Odd Englishes’, was starting to look more like a joint effort. My favourite new word is whoopensocker – I’ve been trying to sneak it into a sentence at every opportunity this week.

SIG and Social Events Coordinator Anne Oosthuizen’s initial plan to go five rounds proved too ambitious with this slightly unruly bunch of 24 contestants, and so we voted to decide the topic for the last round. ‘Literature’ won overwhelmingly, and at long last, I started to feel somewhat useful. This is a good thing when you’re a little on the competitive side. That person who wants to ‘win’ so badly that she ends up with the wrong contact lens prescription because she hazards guesses as the letters on the chart keep getting smaller? Yep, that’s me. Imagine my joy when I realized I might make myself useful in this round. Never mind that it was a stroke of pure luck that I had read some of these books – and that my rapidly deteriorating memory decided not to forsake me for once.

The quiz was beautifully put together, organized and moderated. Webmaster Jenny Zonneveld dealt with all the tech stuff and quickly checked the answers and totted up the numbers. Anne, who put together the very clever questions, joined the side rooms from time to time, graciously trying her best to keep a straight face while we flailed around in our, at times, desperate attempts to find the correct answers – or any answers for that matter.

SENSE mug cropIn the end, our team the Rozzers made off with the prize: eternal fame and a fabulous mug each. Universally Challenged and Girl Power were close on their heels in second and third place. The other teams and their excellent names deserve mention too: 3TC, Cox’s Conquerors and Oldie Newbie.

From all of us, a massive thank you to Anne and Jenny for organizing this fabulous start to the weekend!

Thursday, 01 October 2020 12:00

Applying adjectives with aplomb

Written by John Linnegar

rawpixel com nappy

Experience has shown that columns on the nitty-gritties of grammar can be considered either as a refreshing aide-mémoire to seasoned practitioners or as convenient support for newcomers to editing in need of compelling reasons for having made grammatical changes (especially when they are challenged by authors). In this blog post, the aspect of English usage I’m focusing on (with the help of some really smart authors) is the correct or preferred use of adjectives and their close cousins, the participles. Incorrect usage of these word classes can be considered gauche or clumsy – and possibly even damaging to an author’s or editor’s image. Mastering correct usage is therefore essential, whether you’re wanting to be regarded as an artful writer or showing an author’s words off to best effect. Hopefully the collective wisdom of the authorities cited will clear up any uncertainty you may have had on these questions.

Ordering adjectives correctly in strings

To ‘reveal all’ about the correct ordering of adjectives in strings, we have to start by considering the classes of adjective. Two classes are most commonly used:

  • Classifying: annual event; cotton fabric; German academic; virgin olive oil; green solution (ie, environment-friendly); weekly newspaper. These adjectives tend to indicate the class or category to which a noun belongs. ‘Virgin olive oil’ is interesting because ‘olive’ is already limiting the oil to one class, but ‘virgin’ creates a subclass, differentiating the olive oil from non-virgin pressings. They are generally not gradable (an oven cannot be ‘fairly electric’), nor do they have comparative and superlative forms.
  • Qualitative: tall gentleman; boring film; happy children; green container (colour). These adjectives are usually gradable (extremely boring) and have comparative and superlative forms: tall, taller, tallest; boring, more boring, most boring; happy, happier, happiest.

The general rule to apply is this: in a string of adjectives, the classifier should be placed closest to the noun it qualifies: tall French gentleman; rich silk fabric; colourful beach umbrella. Note the absence of a comma between the two classes of adjective: this is correct.

But what of a long green container? There are two points to consider here. First, two qualitatives are forming a string, so they should be separated by a comma (the same would apply to a string of classifiers, though these occur less frequently). Thus: long, green shipping container; chubby, gurgling Chinese infant.

Secondly, the reverse order of the qualifiers sounds unnatural: a green long container. But why? Well, the experts tell us that order is important, and offer more helpful guidelines:

  • Usually we place an adjective that gives an opinion in front of one that is either classifying or qualitative: nice red dress; silly old man; horrible gold curtains.
  • When three adjectives in a string comprise a qualitative, a classifier and a colour adjective, the usual order is qualitative + colour + classifying + noun: long white stretch limousine; stubby blue ceramic knife.
  • In strings of multiple adjectives, the preferred order is generally: (1) quantity/number; (2) quality/opinion; (3) size; (4) age; (5) shape; (6) colour; (7) proper adjective; and (8) purpose/qualifier. For example (heaven forbid!): Many top-quality large blue aluminium-bladed kitchen knives were on display. (No commas here between the adjectives because they all belong to different classes.)
Adjectives ending in -able and -ible

One of the real dilemmas facing writers and editors having to deal with adjective formation is when to use either -able or -ible as a suffix. English is rather unhelpful with conventions here, but one fairly reliable rule of thumb is this. When the root  is complete without the suffix, then the suffix is more likely to be -able. When the root is incomplete without the suffix, then the suffix is more likely to be -ible:

-able                            -ible
changeable                 feasible
commendable             horrible
reliable                        reprehensible
remarkable                 sensible
saleable                      terrible

Compound adjectives: when to hyphenate?

How often don’t we read statements such as ‘He is well-versed in Dutch literature’ and ‘That beautifully-crafted figurine is Renaissance’. Hopefully, both will have been corrected, but if you’re wondering why they are incorrect, then this section is for you.

A compound adjective is a single adjective made up of more than one word (eg, free-range eggs; 50-page report; ill-fitting garment; one-year-old child; step-by-step explanation). In these examples, the compounds comprise combinations of determiner, adjective, noun, present participle, past participle, adverb and/or preposition. The words in a compound adjective are often linked by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show they are part of the same adjective, especially when they occur in the attributive position in front of the noun they modify. But note that in instances such as fully booked hotel compounding does not occur because the adverb fully ends in -ly and so there is much less likelihood of its being associated with the noun hotel.

When they appear in the predicative position (verb + object(s) or complement), adjectives are usually not compounded though there are exceptions (eg, He is old-fashioned; That idea seems ill-considered). Why the compounding? Consider this:

A man-eating buffalo versus

A man eating buffalo

In the first, buffalo is modified by the compound adjective man-eating to convey one meaning clearly; in the second, man is modified by the adjectival clause eating buffalo, conveying another meaning entirely.

When should we insert a hyphen? If you can use the word and between the two words, then a hyphen isn’t necessary. For example:

  • She has a big blue book. We can say: She has a big and blue book. So no hyphen necessary. But what about a comma?
  • He is a world famous singer. We cannot say: He is a world and famous singer. So a hyphen is necessary to join the words world and famous.
  • Also, look at the following: It’s an old coal-mining town. Inserting a hyphen between the words old and coal would suggest a reference to a town that mines old coal. But it’s the town that is old, not the coal. Also, there should be no comma between old and coal-mining because they belong to different adjective classes.

By identifying and correcting each of these tricky aspects of adjective usage in texts, and armed with sound grammatical backup, you’ll convert your authors’ words into communications that will impress.


Kahn, J.E. (ed.). 1985. The right word at the right time: A guide to the English language and how to use it. Reader’s Digest.
New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford style guide. 2014. 2nd edition. OUP.
New Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. 2014. 2nd edition. OUP.
Seely, J. 2009. Oxford A to Z of grammar and punctuation. 2nd edition. OUP.
Yagoda, B. 2007. When you catch an adjective, kill it: The parts of speech, for better and/or worse. Broadway Books.

This article was originally published in eSense 42 (2016).

Thursday, 24 September 2020 12:00

Blogging for clients

Written by Danielle Carter and Anne Oosthuizen

Canva A Vintage Typewriter

On 3 September, SENSE member and freelance academic editor Dr Claire Bacon joined the Eastern SIG via Zoom from her home in Germany to talk about her experience writing a blog and how it helped her expand her client base. Armed with this new knowledge, Eastern SIG members Anne Oosthuizen and Danielle Carter share their thoughts on the benefits of professional blogging.

Anne Oosthuizen:

To be frank, I never really understood blogging. To me, it seemed like a load of hard work for… yes, what for, exactly? The way Dr Claire Bacon put it, the benefits of keeping a blog can actually be seen as threefold:

  • increasing credibility within your professional network;
  • boosting online visibility and website traffic (and, with this, your ‘findability’);
  • strengthening your own knowledge on topical subject matter.

It was especially this last point that appealed to me: blogging, not necessarily for others, but for yourself. Turning those little research sprees we go on – because we all do, don’t we? – into concrete, durable knowledge, there for you to refer back to and for others to find. Once you’ve built up a little library of posts, you are free to repurpose those by resharing or elaborating upon them. That sort of takes care of my initial objection, namely the supposed workload. Another very good point Claire made with regards to this is that consistency is more important than frequency: consistency shows commitment and dependability. You won’t necessarily have to post something every week. Even if you only have time to write a blog once every three months; if you do it consistently, you showcase stability. That’s a lot better than over-enthusiastically starting a weekly blog, only to stop again after two months because it turns out that isn’t sustainable for you.

I’m not super techy, so aside from some light SEO stuff, I never really invested much energy into optimising my website to climb up the search results ladder. Therefore, the fact that search engines favour new content was actually news to me. By blogging, you are effectively constantly updating your website – keeping it ‘fresh’. I saw my website merely as a landing page for a domain name I’d once bought when I registered at the Kamer van Koophandel: a stationary portfolio. I now cringe, thinking about how long my poor website has already just been sitting there, on the back bench of the internet. Whether I like it or not, half our lives take place online these days and there is really no excuse for an outdated online presence. Time for action.

Finally, I think Claire expected us to be less enthused by the argument of increased credibility among peers than we actually were. I can see why: if you’re just starting out, every other translator feels like a competitor. In fact, I think some language service providers never truly let go of that feeling. However, any member of SENSE will probably feel that colleagues are not just a fantastic potential support network but can actually be one of the greatest ways to generate business. Considering blogging as another way for me to connect with my peers, and for my peers to connect with me has actually been the deciding factor for me – this is why I now solemnly swear to give it a go: I shall blog. Stay tuned.

Danielle Carter:

I am a novice blogger, but I have some big ambitions. I have a running list of over fifty blog post ideas in a Word document on my desktop that shadows over my daily agenda, waiting for me to have more time to write. Dr. Claire Bacon’s presentation on attracting the clients you want by blogging made me think about blogging from a different perspective. At first, I was soothed by the thought that no one was reading my blog (I was scared, okay?), but Claire pointed out that you should be writing specifically for the client that you want. What are they searching for? What are their questions? How can you demonstrate your value and even – gasp! – solve their problems for free via your blog posts?

So I have to admit that at least some people are reading my blog and that this is actually a good thing, especially if they’re the ‘right’ people: you can show (not tell) your clients what you know, build trust with your potential clients and increase your visibility among your peers – who can also send you more work.

Claire highlighted that writing blog posts can be a fantastic form of ‘knowledge consolidation’, meaning that you confirm your own knowledge through research and writing. This has been my main approach in writing blog posts over the past year or so. I’ve always been a good investigator and I love poking around on the internet, gathering resources and generally staying up-to-date in my fields. To me, writing blog posts has become a way to give myself time to research things as thoroughly as I’d like to… while also feeling productive because then I have a tangible result – a blog post – to publish at the end. But it’s also good to know that there are other approaches to coming up with blog post ideas (like thinking about what kinds of questions your clients might have), and other purposes for maintaining a blog.

My other main takeaway (in addition to writing for your ideal clients) was about sharing and resharing your blog content. Although I’ve written a handful of blog posts already, I was wary of being annoying and posting my content across social media platforms too many times. Claire has a nice spreadsheet system (I love spreadsheets) to reshare her blog posts on various media; the main highlight for me was that she writes a different accompanying blurb each time she shares a blog post. That way, she underscores different aspects of the blog, frames the blog into different contexts to show its relevance to various potential clients and allows new followers to view content that they may have missed. Resharing content with different information each time can also help those followers who never actually click on the link; even if they don’t read the whole blog post, they’ll eventually get enough snippets to gain the knowledge or insight they need from your post – at the very least, they’ll be less annoyed by your regular posting.

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